Post-Auction Channel Sharing Expanded

Posted on March 29th, 2017 by

The FCC recently adopted an order expanding the concept of channel sharing among television stations outside of the incentive auction context. Previously, stations participating in the auction could enter into channel sharing agreements so some stations could give up their spectrum in the auction yet continue broadcasting by sharing space on another station. In this new order, the FCC lets stations that were not parties to auction channel share agreements to negotiate and enter into channel share agreements, with some limitations.

For full power or Class A stations whose auction channel share agreement is limited in time (i.e. 5-10 years) or otherwise ends, such stations will be able to negotiate and enter into new channel share agreements with another station after their current CSA ends. Full power or Class A stations without an auction CSA can host other stations as a “sharer”, but cannot hand in their license to channel share as a “sharee” with another station.

For low power stations now on a channel above 36, or below channel 36 that get bumped in the post-auction repack, the new channel share policy gives them an option to remain in business through a channel share (assuming one can be negotiated) with a full power, Class A, or another LPTV station. While sharing with a full power or Class A station will give the LPTV station an expanded coverage area, the LPTV station will not get any new mandatory carriage rights as a result. The new channel sharing possibility will help some LPTV stations remain on the air if there are no displacement channels available in an area, or if rebuilding on a displacement channel is undesirable or too expensive.

The details and procedures for non-auction CSAs are set forth in the order. If you’re considering such an arrangement, a careful review is warranted.